By Jim Kouri
A former CIA officer was indicted Thursday for allegedly leaking classified information to a journalist working for the The New York Times, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee involved in classified counterterrorism activities, according to officials from the U.S. Justice Department.
John Kiriakou was charged in a five-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia, after he was initially charged in a criminal complaint and arrested in January 2012.
The charges also accuse Kiriakou of lying about his actions in an effort to convince the CIA to let him publish a book. The book’s title is “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.”
According to a court affidavit, the photographs of the CIA officer who participated in the Zubaydah interrogation were found in the possession of terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The federal indictment charges the 47-year old Kiriakou with one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for allegedly illegally disclosing the identity of a covert officer and with three counts of violating the Espionage Act for allegedly illegally disclosing national defense information to individuals not authorized to receive it.
The indictment also charges him with one count of making false statements for allegedly lying to the Publications Review Board of the CIA in an unsuccessful attempt to trick the CIA into allowing him to include classified information in a book he was seeking to publish.
Kiriakou was a CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, serving at the agency’s Langley, Virginia, headquarters and in various overseas CIA bureaus.
The veteran spy remains free on bail and is scheduled for arraignment next week on April 13, 2012, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
The charges result from an investigation that was triggered by a classified defense files being discovered in the cells of terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The law enforcement investigation revealed that on multiple occasions one of the journalists to whom Kiriakou is alleged to have illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that information to a defense team investigator, and that this information was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel.
However, no criminal action has been taken against the journalists or the attorneys representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The indictment alleges that Kiriakou made illegal disclosures about two CIA employees and their involvement in classified operations to two journalists on multiple occasions between 2007 and 2009. In one case, by revealing an employee’s name as a CIA officer, Kiriakou allegedly disclosed classified information –- as the employee was and remains covert (identified in the indictment as “Covert Officer A”).
In the second case, the indictment claims Kiriakou disclosed the name and contact information of another CIA employee, identified in the indictment as “Officer B,” whose participation in an operation to capture terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002 was then classified.
Kiriakou’s alleged disclosures occurred prior to a June 2008 front-page story in The New York Times disclosing Officer B’s alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.
The indictment was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who was appointed Special Attorney in 2010 to supervise the investigation. Fitzgerald gained national attention as the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame-CIA Leak case during the Bush Administration.
On Thursday, Fitzgerald announced the charges with James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI. Together, they thanked the CIA for its very substantial assistance in the investigation, as well as the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for its significant assistance.
The Justice Department’s National Security Division, working with the FBI, began the investigation. To avoid the risk of encountering a conflict of interest because of the pending prosecutions of some of the high-value detainees, Mr. Fitzgerald was assigned to supervise the investigation conducted by a team of attorneys from the Southern District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois and the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division who were not involved in pending prosecutions of the detainees.
The count charging violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, as well as each count of violating the Espionage Act, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and making false statements carries a maximum prison term of five years. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.